Oliver Stone's ALEXANDER (Director's Cut)
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Contrary to popular opinion, it IS possible to find positive reviews of this movie onlne. I mention this since I just watched this Director’s Cut and enjoyed it immensely despite the problems. (I readily admit that I have a weakness for sword-and-sandal movies.)
Some immediate reactions:
- The color, photography, and images are beautiful, both exteriors and interiors.
- The movie’s non-linear structure is a creative way to add variety — and some mystery — to a story that might have otherwise turned into a long slog as we follow Alexander and his army around the world.
- The movie’s incorporation of conservatively conceived and classical images and settings within a contemporary looking view of ancient times is fun to watch and listen to (Aristotle sitting among his students, views of the ancient library at Alexandria, etc.).
- The great battles(against Darius in the desert and against the elephant cavalry in the Indian forest) are awesome and amazingly well photographed and edited. The former had me thinking of Kurosawa’s Ran and the latter of the fearsome Kalinga battle in Asoka.
I was not troubled by Colin Farrell’s (Daredevil) performance as Alexander, and I rather enjoyed Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft) as Alexander’s mother. In fact, the movie is practically littered with good performances, at the top of which I would place Val Kilmer (Red Planet) as Alexander’s father.
Oliver Stone’s non-stop commentary track is a show unto itself. You may find him to be annoying at times — as I certainly did — but he adds greatly to an understanding of the film. Stone loves (identifies with?) his main character. He speaks of Alexander’s motivation within the dramatic context of the film almost as if it were real. This isafter Stone has indicated early on that we really know very little about Alexander. It’s hilarious for example to listen to Stone list the “questions he would most like to ask Alexander were he alive today,” one of which is “Why did you marry Roxanne?”
Roxanne is played lustily by Rosario Dawson (Sin City) so I think I know how many other men would answer that question. Problem is, Alexander’s “pan-sexuality” (as Stone refers to it) is a major point in the film, no matter how much Stone may complain that critics’ emphasis of Alexander’s sexuality has overshadowed the larger themes. Note to Oliver: you can’t present a big screen movie that includes the main character having an affair with a heterosexual female, a homosexual childhood friend, and a eunuch and not have SOMEONE comment about it.
One thing I do not understand about the movie is how the central fact of Alexander’s life is not really explored satisfactory. Alexander was, after all, an honest to goodnessworld conqueror. He marched his armies around, fought battles, slaughtered people, and imposed order.
Even though Alexander/Stone makes a number of speeches in thsi movie about how his exploits are really intended to spread enlightenment among the heathen by uniting the known world under one enlightened rulership - his - the fact is that this was only accomplished by the sword. Yet, listening to Stone’s commentary, you can hear the respect and awe he feels for Alexander’s accomplishments.
The fact remains that Alexander did accomplish the exploits that are outlined in this movie — all before he died at the age of 32. And here we are in the 21st Century, still discussing them and presenting them in popular drama.
That is quite amazing and I am glad that Stone accomplished what he did. One thing that went through my mind is that the only other contemporary director who would have come up with as controversial a view of this ancient history is the late Stanely Kubrick, and I think that is a compliment to what Stone has accomplished here.
Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald